Saturday, February 06, 2016

Tom Herman's impressive recruiting haul

With the caveat that I am skeptical of recruiting rankings because they tend to be biased in favor of "Power 5" schools - just look how the ratings of Bellaire's Courtney Lark and Manvel's D'Eriq King fell after they committed to University of Houston, as opposed to a P-5 school - I want to express my admiration and appreciation to head coach Tom Herman for bringing in the highest-rated recruiting class in program history last Wednesday. ESPN's Sam Khan, Jr. explains:
The Cougars signed the nation's 30th-ranked recruiting class, the highest finish ever for a school outside of a power conference (Power 5 currently or BCS previously). Houston also became the first non-power conference program to sign a five-star recruit since ESPN began ranking recruits in 2006.

Coming off a 13-1 season that included an American Athletic Conference championship, a win over Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and a top-10 finish in the polls, it is yet another victory for Herman's budding power.

Still, without the resources and facilities afforded to Power 5 conference programs that battled with the Cougars for ESPN 300 recruits, how did the Cougars land their historic class?
Khan goes on to explain how Herman and his staff forged relationships with high school football players and their coaches, focused their efforts on the talent-rich Houston area, and refused to accept that they couldn't recruit top-quality athletes simply because they weren't a "Power 5" school:
When coaches were out in the city during the evaluation period, they feared no Power 5 program.

"The mindset was we're going to go recruit these Houston-area guys and present something to them and not be afraid to compete against people for these local guys," offensive line coach Derek Warehime said.
UH's recruiting strategy seems very simple and logical, in theory. But it's not always easy to accomplish in practice; previous Cougar head coaches such as Art Briles (now head coach at Baylor) and Kevin Sumlin (now head coach at Texas A&M) never signed a class as talented as this one. But Herman and his staff were able to use this strategy to bring in a big "get" - a highly-rated, heavily-recruited five-star defensive tackle from Westfield High School by the name of Ed Oliver - and in turn build recruiting momentum:
Oliver valued the longstanding relationships he had and believed in the vision the staff sold. [Defensive line coach Oscar] Giles said Oliver called him often just to talk and he got to know Oliver's family well: "I knew who his girlfriend was, his brothers, mom, his great was a relationship that was built over time."

When Oliver verbally committed to the Cougars in May, there was no hat ceremony, no grand announcement on Twitter, just Oliver placing a phone call to the coaching staff. The news quickly spread, to the bewilderment of many who were surprised a prospect of that caliber pledged to a program in a non-power conference.

That moment, however, turned the "H-Town Takeover" from a simple hashtag and concept to a genuine, successful recruiting movement.

"I think it was like a big rock dropping into a big pool. Splash," Giles said. "Everybody knows the guy. They're like, 'They must be serious over there.' It gave us some credibility that we were doing it the right way."

Added [assistant coach Corby] Meekins: "That kind of broke the seal and made it OK to come here. When you get a player that's caliber and can go anywhere -- we have a lot of players in this class who could go anywhere -- but that made it OK."
To be sure, the power schools of the SEC and Big 12 did not passively sit by while Herman and his staff made their recruiting push. The Washington Post's Chuck Culpepper explores how Houston had to stave off 'poachers:'
That word can describe recruiters from other programs who, in the 147-year-old traditions of the sport, bring silver tongues and poaching arts and try to help players renege on prior commitments. That did foil Houston once, when the coveted Houstonian receiver Tyrie Cleveland changed his mind from Houston to sweet-talking, blue-blooded Florida, whose coaches jumped up and down upon learning the news.

It did not derail Houston. Rivals ranked its class No. 44 in a sport with 65 top-tier programs. ESPN slotted it at No. 30. Representing the underlings fiercely, Houston held onto Ed Oliver, the Houstonian defensive tackle generally bestowed the ultimate five stars, and when Oliver didn’t budge, he became both the only one of Rivals’ top 100 players to sign with a Group of Five program, and the day’s biggest upset according to ESPN. Courtney Lark, the four-star receiver, also held firm to help redefine his hometown’s atmosphere.

For their second recruiting class, Herman and his staff had fostered relationships with their signees, then had gone 13-1 with a major bowl win.

“And I think what that was able to do, then, was to solidify our position a little bit when the poachers came calling,” Herman said.

They did come calling, and the process was “nerve-wracking,” Herman said.
Other schools tried to sow doubt in the minds of Houston's commitments by using the by-now-tiresome trope that Herman would be leaving UH for a "bigger" program soon:
The 40-year-old coach proclaimed a 7-1 record against Southeastern Conference poachers, even as every recruit asked Herman what every poacher put in every recruit’s mind: How long are you staying?

“What I tell them is the truth,” he said, and then he went on a long, bountiful description of his pitch. It included that “in my opinion, the American Athletic Conference has undoubtedly separated itself from the other non-Power Five conferences” (what with Navy, Temple and Memphis also having successful seasons). It included a comparison of going 7-5 at some top-tier program — “It’s no fun going 7-5. It stinks, in fact. It’s really, really not fun” — set against this: “What’s really fun is when it feels like the whole city of Houston rushes onto the field, you’re kissing the trophy, holding it up, and there’s confetti falling, and you go to a New Year’s Six bowl game, and you’re playing one of the blue bloods, and you’re beating them by two touchdowns in the Peach Bowl.”
Highly-rated local recruits looked at what the Cougars accomplished last season, and brought in to Herman's pitch.

Obviously, getting these kids signed is just the first step in a process that includes their becoming and academically qualified, enrolled in school, and performing on the field. But if highly-ranked recruiting classes do correlate with success on the field, then the Cougars have a bright future ahead of them.

Which is why I just renewed my season tickets for 2016, even though kickoff is still over 200 days away.

Stupid journalist tricks

Transit consultant Jarrett Walker takes issue with a recent Los Angeles Times story regarding declining ridership on LA's public transportation network. While the drop-off in bus and rail boardings is a legitimate concern, especially given the amount of money LACMTA is investing in new rail lines, Walker argues that the story's writers, Laura Nelson and Dan Weikel, are making the problem appear worse than it seems by making two critical errors:
  1. Using one or two data points to determine a "trend," and
  2. Using an arbitrary "starting year" as a point of comparison.
I'm very familiar with these two "mistakes" (if you could call them that, because I tend to believe that they are deliberate) because I see them used by journalists all the time and in stories about a variety of subjects. Walker is, rightfully, calling these reporters out for using these misleading tricks in order to generate a "story" that doesn't accurately reflect what is actually happening:
The chart in the article shows that ridership has been falling for one year, based on just one data point (Later in a Tweet, Nelson told me she had two data points, with ridership down in both calendar 2014 and ’15, but that’s not in the article or the chart.)
                                                                                                                                                            Los Angeles Times

Based on these one or two points, the authors propose a vast and ominous trend:
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the region’s largest carrier, lost more than 10% of its boardings from 2006 to 2015, a decline that appears to be accelerating. Despite a $9-billion investment in new light rail and subway lines, Metro now has fewer boardings than it did three decades ago, when buses were the county’s only transit option.
Accelerating? You need many data points to support this claim, because you are saying not just which way the line is going but also how it’s curving.  What the published chart shows is that:
    • There’s a larger interesting story about the broad fall in ridership across the 90s and dramatic recovery across the 00s.
    • Ridership has been generally flat since 2006, going up and down in about a 10% band, with no sign of strong movement in any direction.
Walker explains that transit ridership is very "noisy," with yearly boarding totals affected by a variety of factors from weather to gas prices to the overall economy, so it takes a long time, and multiple data points, before a trend can be determined.
When a journalist says some grand thing has been happening since year y, you should immediately ask: “why year y in particular?”  Again, here’s how the article opens:
For almost a decade, transit ridership has declined across Southern California despite enormous and costly efforts by top transportation officials to entice people out of their cars and onto buses and trains.
Why “almost a decade”?  Why not just a decade?  Because if you compared 2015 to 2005 instead of 2006, ridership wouldn’t be down, and the authors wouldn’t have a story.

Sure, ridership is down 10% since 2006. But it’s up since 2011 and way up since 2004.  Want to talk about the grand sweep of history?  Nelson says that ridership is lower than it was 30 years ago, which sounds terrible, but it’s higher than it was 25 years ago!
Indeed, you can create any story about ridership you want simply by choosing a "starting year" on the graph above: "This “arbitrary starting year” trick is a very common in misleading journalism. Be suspicious whenever you see a single past year is cited as a point of comparison."

I completely understand the pressure for journalists to create a neat "story" that will generate all-important page views; as a commenter on Walker's blog says, "part of the problem with journalism is that you want to have a snappy headline. 'Transit Ridership Goes up and Down' won’t do it." However, journalists do a disservice when they use tricks such as the ones Walker identifies to exaggerate, or even fabricate, stories such as these. This is especially true of something as politically polarizing and as poorly understood as public transportation. Maybe it's another reason why journalism should come with warning labels.

In a second post, Walker takes issue with the same LA Times article for its apparent assumption that short-term ridership is the only worthwhile measurement of a transit system's success. In a third post, Walker picks apart a post by anti-transit extremist Randal O'Toole regarding LA's ridership decline; anybody who wants to understand why I, as a transportation planning professional, have very little respect or use for O'Toole and his screeds should read it.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

College football stadiums I've visited

Since I'm still not ready for college football season to be over, I decided to make a list of all the FBS college football stadiums I've attended games in. (Hey, if I can do it for countries, I can also do it for stadiums!)
A strikethrough means that the stadium no longer exists or is no longer in use. An asterisk (*) means that the stadium has been expanded or renovated since I've visited.

Alamodome, San Antonio TX (UTSA Roadrunners)
Amon Carter Stadium*, Fort Worth TX (TCU Horned Frogs, Armed Forces Bowl)
Apogee Stadium, Denton TX (North Texas Mean Green)
Astrodome, Houston TX (Houston Cougars, Houston Bowl)
Brighthouse Networks Stadium, Orlando FL (Central Florida Golden Knights)
Cajun Field, Lafayette LA (Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns)
Cotton Bowl, Dallas TX (Texas Longhorns/Oklahoma Sooners)
Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium*, Austin TX (Texas Longhorns)
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium*, Greenville NC (East Carolina Pirates)
Fouts Field, Denton TX (North Texas Mean Green)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta GA (Peach Bowl)
Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Highland Park TX (SMU Mustangs)
Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins CO (Colorado State Rams)
Kyle Field*, College Station TX (Texas A&M Aggies)
Liberty Bowl, Memphis TN (Liberty Bowl)
Michie Stadium, West Point NY (Army Black Knights)
NRG (Reliant) Stadium, Houston TX (Houston Cougars, Rice Owls, Texas Bowl)
Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium*, Norman OK (Oklahoma Sooners)
Rice Stadium, Houston TX (Rice Owls)
Robertson Stadium, Houston TX (Houston Cougars)
Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA (UCLA Bruins)
Superdome, New Orleans LA (Tulane Green Wave, New Orleans Bowl)
TDECU Stadium, Houston TX (Houston Cougars)
Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA (Louisiana State Tigers)

Although it does stretch from stadiums in Florida to New York to Los Angeles, this is really not that long of a list, all things considered. Between 128 FBS teams, neutral site stadiums and bowl stadiums, there are probably somewhere around 150 stadiums where top-level college football is played on a regular basis. I've visited 24, and three of those no longer exist or are operation. Furthermore, several of these venues have been extensively renovated since I last visited them; A&M's Kyle Field and TCU's Amon Carter Stadium are essentially different structures today than when I was last there. As much of a college football fan as I am, I need to make more roadtrips.

With that said, this list continues to grow. Last year I added LSU's Tiger Stadium and the Georgia Dome to this list. This fall I'm going to try to add Texas State's Bobcat Stadium and, hopefully, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to the list.

My iPhone's top 20

I did this five years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to take another tally of the songs I listen to most frequently on my iPhone (which has replaced my iPod Nano as my portable repository of music about four years ago).

It appears as if my musical tastes remain pretty eclectic but are dominated by 80s and 90s electronica. Twelve of these songs were in my top 20 of five years ago (2010 ranking in parentheses), which means I obviously enjoy listening to them. It also might suggest that I need to start listening to some new music...

1. Ride a White Horse - Goldfrapp (Supernature, 2006, Mute/Universal Music)
2. Home - Erasure (Chorus, 1991, Sire) (#13)
3. That Smiling Face - Camouflage (Voice and Images, 1988, Atlantic)
4. Burst Generator - The Chemical Brothers (We Are The Night, 2007, Australwerks/EMI) (#4)
5. Looking at You - Sunscreem (Looking at you: Club Anthems, 1998, Centaur Entertainment)
6. Let Forever Be - The Chemical Brothers (Surrender, 1999, Australwerks) (#8)
7. Life Is Sweet - The Chemical Brothers (Exit Planet Dust, 1995, Australwerks)
8. Hysteria - Def Leppard (Hysteria, 1987, Mercury)
9. Blissed - Jesus Jones (Doubt, 1991, SBK) (#1)
10. Sometimes [Erasure/Flood Two Ring Circus Remix] - Erasure (The Two Ring Circus, 1987, Sire)
11. Rolling in the Deep - Adele (21, 2011, Columbia/XL)
12. Big Time Sensuality (The Fluke Minimix) - Bjork (Big Time Sensuality EP, 1993, Elektra) (#12)
13. Primary - The Cure (Faith, 1981, Elektra) (#2)
14. Destroy Everything You Touch - Ladytron (Witching Hour, 2005, So Sweet) (#15)
15. Thank U - Alanis Morissette (Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, 1998, Maverick/Reprise) (#7)
16. Lightning Blue Eyes - Secret Machines (Ten Silver Drops, 2006, Reprise)
17. Love U More - Sunscreem (03, 1993, Columbia) (#3)
18. Space Age Love Song - A Flock of Seagulls (A Flock of Seagulls, 1982, Jive) (#18)
19. Imagination - Xymox (Twist of Shadows, 1989, Wing) (#21)
20. Four Leaf Clover - Abra Moore (Strangest Places, 1997, Arista) (#6)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

At season's end: Alabama #1, Clemson #2, and Houston #8

The 2015 college football season came to its conclusion Monday night, as Alabama won its fourth national title in seven seasons by defeating Clemson, 45-40, in a rather exciting game.

I was actually rooting for Clemson, because they were the only remaining undefeated team left and also because Alabama already has eleventy billion national championships. However, I have to give the Crimson Tide credit: they are clearly the best team in the nation. With this win, it can be argued that Nick Saban is now the greatest coach in college football history.

Alabama and Clemson landed in the one and two spots in the final AP poll of the 2015 season, released yesterday. Clemson, Stanford, Ohio State and Oklahoma round out the top five. The Cardinal might have a legitimate argument that they, other than Oklahoma or Michigan State, should have been included in the four-team playoff, but it appears as if their two regular season losses were just too much for the Playoff Committee to overlook.

The Houston Cougars, meanwhile, end the 2015 season with a #8 ranking in the AP poll. This is Houston's third-highest finish ever, behind a #4 ranking after the 1976 season and a #5 ranking after the 1979 season. It's also UH's sixth end-of-season top-ten ranking in program history. The Coogs finished #8 in the final Coaches Poll as well.

One has to wonder what things would have been like had the Cougar managed to not stub their toe against UConn; it probably wouldn't have mattered in terms of getting the Cougars into the playoff, but as their convincing win over Florida State indicated, the team was clearly better than the #18 ranking the College Football Playoff Committee gave them going into the postseason.

Few Cougar fans could have expected this level of success when the season began; I certainly didn't! The Coogs' success led USA Today sportswriter Paul Myerberg to give the Coogs an "A+" for the season; the only other teams receiving such a grade being Alabama and Clemson. Furthermore, the Cougars are already being mentioned as a top-ten team in some way-too-early guesses about the 2016 preseason poll.
#18 Navy joins Houston as the only other American Athletic Conference team in the top 25; the only other "Group of Five" school in the top 25 is Conference USA champion #24 Western Kentucky, which had its best season since moving to FBS.

For what it's worth, only four out of top ten teams in the AP's preseason poll ended up in the postseason top ten: Ohio State, TCU, Alabama and Michigan State. Three more teams in the preseason top ten ended up in the postseason spots 11-25: Baylor, Oregon and Michigan State. Make of it what you will regarding the usefulness or accuracy of preseason polls.

Although I know I shouldn't get excited about the coming season, it's going to be an especially long offseason for me. Only 234 days until #5 Oklahoma and #8 Houston meet at NRG Stadium to kick off the 2016 season!

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Kodak announces new Super 8 camera

Everything old is new again:
Kodak is remaking the Super 8 camera. The Rochester, New York-based company is working with industrial designer Yves Behar to create an eight-millimeter film camera that combines features of the original Super 8 with some digital functionality, like a digital viewfinder. Kodak is showing off a prototype of the camera this week at CES, and plans to ship a limited edition of the camera in the fall for somewhere between $400 and $750, according to the WSJ. A less expensive model is expected in 2017.

Several filmmakers, producers, and directors supplied quotes in support of the Super 8 Revival, as Kodak is terming it, including Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams. "While any technology that allows for visual storytelling must be embraced, nothing beats film," said Abrams. "The fact that Kodak is building a brand new Super 8 camera is a dream come true."
As a Super 8 buff, I'm happy to see Kodak doing this; as a practical matter, however, I don't know if I'll be buying one anytime soon. I haven't shot or edited any film in over a decade, this new camera will (at least initially) be out of my price range, and some of the filmstock that made Super 8 so enjoyable to work with no longer exists.

That being said, it's nice to see old media formats receive a new lease on life:
Kodak is trying, and so should we. Maybe film will make a comeback. During the most recent holiday season, the top sellers on Amazon were instant film and a record player. Maybe what's old is new. Maybe the new stuff already feels old. Maybe this isn't about making the next best pseudo-portable tech accessory for hipsters but a call for quality, for learning, for the time it takes to learn quality. Maybe it's a last gasp for permanence and tactility, as all of our media becomes ephemeral.
I do believe that, aside from nostalgic considerations, formats such as vinyl LPs and Super 8 film provide unique quirks and characteristics that are absent from today's digital media world. I'm glad to see Kodak encouraging Super 8s's continued use.

(I have resolved, by the way, that 2016 will be the year I finally finish splicing and editing my grandfather's old Super 8 films and transferring to DVD for the entire family to enjoy...)

Radio sports talk hosts are not "journalists"

I don't listen to sports talk radio. I've just never been interested. A lot of other people do, however, such that the Houston market is able to support several sports talk stations. Little surprise, then, that an altercation involving a University of Houston football transfer is receiving so much attention:
Houston Cougars football coach Tom Herman went on John Lopez and Nick Wright’s SportsRadio 610 sports show yesterday. To call the exchange contentious would be an understatement. (The full 22-minute interview can be heard here. h/t sportsmedialm for the link). The genesis of the discussion goes back to a John Lopez story about new Cougar Kyle Allen that was posted on December 13.
To provide some context: quarterback Kyle Allen recently left Texas A&M. Early this week he announced that he had decided to transfer to Houston. Lopez's original story claimed that Allen had met with Herman in person here in Houston to discuss the transfer, which would have been an NCAA recruiting violation had it occurred at the time Lopez claimed.

It would not be surprising for Lopez to suggest that UH had committed a recruiting violation, as he has never been a friend of the University of Houston. Those who listen to him claim that he consistently belittles UH on this radio show. I can't verify that, but I do know that, when he was a columnist at the Chronicle, he took his shots at the program on a regular basis. For example, this article from almost a decade ago, wherein he exaggerated Houston's attendance issues and employed tired (and racist) "UH is in a bad neighborhood" arguments in order to shill for a new stadium for the Houston Dynamo.

In this particular instance, Lopez tried to break some news that put UH and Herman in an unfavorable light, and failed miserably. John Royal explains:
In many ways, this train wreck is all inside media, and it's certainly not something that needed to have happened. It could have been prevented by a call from Lopez to Herman on December 13. It could have been prevented by corrections to the post after that. It could have been prevented if Herman and Lopez could have agreed on what “meeting” and “interest” meant. It could have all been prevented if Nick Wright didn’t go gonzo on twitter Tuesday demanding apologies for Lopez from (Fox 26's) Mark Berman and (the Chronicle's) Joseph Duarte. (Full disclosure: Sean Pendergast, a regular Houston Press contributor who co-hosts his own afternoon SportsRadio 610 show, was not involved in Wednesday morning's interview with Herman nor did he participate in any way with Lopez's story or this one.)

It could have all been prevented if Lopez and/or Wright had ever actually bothered to make their presence known at the University of Houston. They never attended a practice this season. They never came to a game. They never came to a press conference. They had Herman on just once during the season, and never bothered to talk to him at any other time.

None of that, of course, happened. What instead happened is that 610 doubled down, going so far as to basically state it doesn’t matter what the actual facts were since the Cougars and Allen did have a mutual interest—the argument essentially being that facts are unimportant if the essence is kind of sort of correct.
Ahh, yes... "essentially correct." We'll get back to this wonderful phrase in a moment.
Of course, facts do matter. As Duarte and Berman reported, following up with their sources, there was no meeting in Houston that day. Kyle Allen debunked the report, stating he was in Arizona. Even Lopez seems to backtrack during the interview with Herman, implying that there was instead a phone conversation, which is not what he initially reported. And still Wright claims there’s nothing wrong with the story because it doesn’t matter if you’re hit by a red car or an orange car — yes, this exchange actually happened, and yes it’s just as mind-numblingly stupid as it sounds because, as any lawyer will tell you, the color the damn car that hits you absolutely matters.
Which brings me back to my point: radio jocks are not, generally speaking, journalists. They exist to talk about sports, engage callers, drive ratings and sell radio advertising space. They can certainly report and discuss news stories, conduct interviews and offer insight, but they are not investigative reporters and should not pretend to be as such. That's not a knock on radio hosts; it's just not part of their job description. Just because you have a microphone in front of you and are considered a member of the "local media" doesn't make you Bob Woodward.

Hence, Lopez's pathetic attempt at breaking a story that wasn't true, and his (and his douchey little sidekick's) attempt to claim that the story was "essentially correct" after Herman called him out on it. Ask any journalism professor, any managing editor, any longtime reporter what the phrase "essentially correct" means, and they'll tell you that if you use it to defend something you've reported, you'll probably get fired.

Royal correctly argues that Coach Herman didn't come off as well as he could have in this encounter, either. He was clearly angry, he probably allowed the conversation to go on too long, and there's a valid argument that he probably shouldn't have "fed the trolls" by engaging Lopez and Wright in the first place. But Herman is a man who clearly values accuracy and ethics, and he felt that he had to set the record straight.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for a hack like Lopez.

Peach Bowl: #18 Houston 38, #9 Florida State 24

The Cougars capped off their magical 2015 season with a convincing win over the Florida State Seminoles in the Georgia Dome last Thursday.

In spite of the fact that the Cougars were seven-point underdogs in this game, this was not a fluke win. This was total domination. Greg Ward, Jr completed 25 of 41 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Chance Allen caught two touchdown passes, including a dazzling halfback throw from Demarcus Ayers (who ended his UH career with 9 receptions of his own for 82 yards). Ryan Jackson rushed for 54 yards and a TD, and backup quarterback Kyle Postma, coming in for a injured Greg Ward late in the game, sealed the win with a 29-yard rush of his own to set up Houston's final score. FSU's defense simply had no answer for a Cougar defense that racked up 448 total yards of offense and 27 first downs.

The Seminole offense was just as inept against the Cougar defense. They turned the ball over five (!) times. Florida State's biggest offensive threat, running back Dalvin Cook, was limited to 33 yards on 18 carries, and the Seminole rushing attack could only muster 16 yards for the entire game. FSU QB Sean Maguire did the best he could, toughing out a foot injury early in the game to complete 22 of 444 passes for 392 yards and two touchdowns, but he was savaged by UH's line all afternoon long and suffered multiple sacks.

The end result was Houston's biggest bowl victory since their thrilling win over Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl. It capped off an amazing season for the Cougars, and set the table for what could be an even more amazing 2016 season under coach Tom Herman.

I attended the game in Atlanta, along with my mom, dad and many family friends. My dad is a Florida State alum, and enjoyed watching FSU's marching band (of which he was a member) perform at halftime. But in the end, he was just as happy as the rest of us - there had to have been somewhere between 12 and 15 thousand UH fans in attendance - to see the Cougars notch this win. I am a Houston Cougar because of him, and given his age, he's probably not going to see too many more seasons like this one, so I'm glad he was able to enjoy it and I'm happy I got to watch it with him.

It will be interesting to see where the Cougars end the season ranked, and I'll probably have more to say about the 2015 football season in a future post. Otherwise: short of an appearance in the College Football Playoff itself, this is the best possible outcome a Cougar fan could expect for 2016. I am overjoyed.

(Oh, and did I mention that I won $360 at a Biloxi casino on the way back from Atlanta? Happy New Year to me!)

Go Coogs!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 Houston Cougar football attendance

I finally got around to the annual update of my wins-versus-attendance graph for UH Cougar Football:
The Coogs averaged 33,980 fans over seven home games, which is an increase of 5,666 fans per game since last year and almost ten thousand fans per game since the 2013 season. This is Houston's largest average attendance since the 1979 season (37,847). This attendance average, furthermore, would not have been possible in Robertson Stadium, which had a maximum capacity of 32,000.

Thus, for all the hand-wringing about the number of people attending Houston football games, things are clearly trending in the right direction.

(Updated 1/21/16 to reflect Peach Bowl win)

Interstate 14

Texas is getting another interstate. Eventually:
Interstate 14 will be cobbled together mostly from U.S. 190 and other existing roads to create a new freeway from western Texas to the Louisiana border. The Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition, based in Austin, announced the designation Tuesday.

The interstate will take years to build as highway segments must be brought up to freeway standards such as no at-grade intersections and various safety upgrades to allow for higher speeds.

According to the coalition, I-14 will connect Killeen, Belton, Bryan-College Station, Huntsville, Livingston, Woodville and Jasper before terminating at Texas 63 at the Sabine River.
To be clear, I-14 wouldn't "terminate" at that location; it would simply continue into Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and potentially South Carolina as part of the "14th Amendment Highway."

I've known that this is been in the works for awhile. I'm less clear on the purpose Interstate 14 is supposed to serve. It's being billed as a "Forts to Ports" highway, even though it doesn't directly serve any ports here in Texas (and the military is likely to continue to rely on railroads to move the bulk of their material to and from port facilities anyway). Given that Texas is one of the few states in the country without an Interstate link between its capital in its largest city, it seems like it would make more sense for Interstate 14 to generally follow the route of US 290, rather than 190.

At any rate, it will be a long time before I-14 comes to full fruition. As of today, the only section of US 190 here in Texas that could possibly meet interstate standards is the stretch that runs from Copperas Cove to Belton and serves Fort Hood. Maybe a few miles of H. K. Dodgen Loop running along the south side of Temple would qualify as well, if direct connectors from I-35 were built. Otherwise, as is the case with Interstate 69, the realization of I-14 will be a slow and piecemeal process.